Category Archives: Climate Change Impacts

Native Communities, Crabapples, and Climate Change

pacificcrabapple_berryThe crabapple is harvested by 37 Native cultures from Alaska to Oregon and Victoria Wyllie de Echeverria, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Oxford, has studied climate change on the Pacific Coast through changes to to the harvest and use of the fruit. She is now interviewing dozens of Alaska Native and Canadian First Nation elders to get a cultural and historical perspective on changes to the broader ecosystems. Read more here.

More on Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Research

Watch this video from local PBS station KCTS9 which reports on the research into the disease that is causing catastrophic losses of sea start all along the west coast. Continue to watch for two more pieces: one on a new orca born to Puget Sound’s L-pod and another on sea otters and their role in preserving carbon-sequestering kelp forests.







Locations of sea star wasting syndrome outbreaks. From In Close.

Global Warming Expands Antarctic Winter Sea Ice

As the Antarctic Ice sheet approaches the point of no return for inevitable collapse, winter sea ice is increasing in the waters around the continent. This seems like a contradiction, but is it? The Antarctic ice sheet rests on the land mass, and rate of loss of the has tripled in the last 5 years–a worrying trend considering that 90 percent of the Earth’s ice is located there.

In contrast, the sea ice is floating on water and this floating ice has expanded even though Southern Ocean temperatures are increasing. The recent expansion is probably due to a combination of changing wind patterns and the cool, fresh melt water interacting with the ocean surrounding Antarctica. When the meltwater mixes with seawater, the result is less dense water that is closer to the freezing point. This forms a pool of surface water around the continent that can then more readily freeze onto the floating sea ice.

As the news release states, “as counterintuitive as expanding winter Antarctic sea ice may appear on a warming planet, it may actually be a manifestation of recent warming.”

Ream more at Climate Progress and at in NOAA’s news release at


New, Higher Estimates of Upper Ocean Warming

The global ocean stores more than 90% of the heat associated with global warming; a new study published in Nature Climate Change has shown that the upper ocean has been warming more quickly since 1970 than models previously suggested.  Using satellite altimetry observations and a large suite of climate models, the authors found that previous estimates are about 24 to 58 percent too low. The study attributes this to a lack of data from large areas of Southern Hemisphere oceans combined with limitations of the analysis methods used in those regions where data is lacking.

Paul Durack, lead author, and oceanographer with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, told Science magazine, “The thing that was surprising to me was the magnitude of this underestimation.” This has important implications for sea level rise and and climate sensitivity assessments.


From Durack, P.J. et al. 2014. Quantifying underestimates of long-term upper-ocean warming. Nature Climate Change. Published online 05 October 2014

Half of North America’s Bird Species Threatened by Climate Change

The National Audubon Society has released their Birds and Climate Change Report. By combining hundreds of thousands of citizen science observations and projections from climate models, Audubon scientists have mapped how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to changing conditions. They describe it as the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, and the closest thing to a field guide to the future of North American birds.

Of the 588 North American bird species evaluated, 126 are classified as climate endangered because they are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2050. Another 188 species are classified as climate threatened and are expected to lose more than 50 percent of their current range by 2080 if global warming continues at its current pace.

You can see a good summary from the New York Times here.


Warming Deep in the Atlantic Ocean

While the rate of warming of the Earth’s surface has slowed since 1999, ocean temperatures have continued to increase, especially at depth.

The results of a recent study from the University of Washington described here and published in the journal Science, has shown that a slow-moving current in the Atlantic, which carries heat between the two poles, sped up earlier this century to draw heat down almost a mile (1,500 meters) into the ocean.

This current oscillates between warming and cooling periods. During the warming period, faster currents bring more tropical water to to the North Atlantic, warming both the surface and the deep water. The warmer surface water melts ice, slowly decreasing the density of the water. Since salty water is more dense, it sinks and acts as a driver for the current. With less saline water at the surface, the circulation slows and a 30-year cooling phase begins. The current began to draw heat deeper into the ocean around 2000, counteracting human-caused warming at the surface.


From K. Tung / Univ. of Washington. (Top) Global average surface temperatures, where black dots are yearly averages. Two flat periods (hiatus) are separated by rapid warming from 1976-1999. (Middle) Observations of heat content, compared to the average, in the north Atlantic Ocean. (Bottom) Salinity of the seawater in the same part of the Atlantic. Higher salinity is seen to coincide with more ocean heat storage.




Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Climate Change

Rosalyn LaPier talks about learning Traditional Ecological Knowledge from her grandmother in this article and video on the EPA Environmental Justice Blog. She also discusses how climate change is affecting traditional practices tied to seasonal patterns that are now shifting.


She describes the learning process: “…unlike what most people think, it was not an informal activity. Instead it was a formal process of learning. The Amskapi Pikuni, now known as the Blackfeet, believe in a process they call “transferring.” The Blackfeet believe that both tangible and intangible items are considered personal property which can be bought and sold. A tipi, which is tangible, or a name, which is intangible, are given equal value as property. However, instead of using the words “buy” or “sell,” the Blackfeet use the word “transfer.”